The traditional December Pagosa Springs Chamber Sundowner at the Springs Resort and Spa, scheduled for December 18, may not be as merry as in the past.
According to a November 19 article in the Durango Herald, federal authorities are investigating the family of the owners of the Springs Resort & Spa in Pagosa Springs for possibly laundering drug money through the famous hot springs resort.
The scenic San Juan River with the Springs Resort in the distance. Photo by Cynda Green.
The article, written by investigative reporter Joe Hanel, begins with:
"No one has been accused of a crime, but a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official detailed a lengthy investigation of aircraft dealer Reginald 'Don' Whittington, 67, in an affidavit in support of a search warrant for Whittington’s emails.
"Whittington and his brother, William Marvin 'Bill' Whittington, are former champion race car drivers, and they both served prison time in the 1980s for charges related to marijuana smuggling."
The Pagosa Daily Post had noted Bill Whittington's drug-laced past in a 2008 article about the Springs Resort. Whittington's daughters, Nerissa Whittington and Keely Reyes (nee Whittington), are now the legal owners of the Springs Resort. They deny the allegations, according to reporter Joe Hanel.
Hanel's article continues.
"Don Whittington now owns World Jet, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., firm that federal agents say offers jets to carry South American drug shipments.
"A DEA informant said Whittington is laundering his proceeds through the Springs Resort and Spa in Pagosa Springs, according to a 35-page affidavit by DEA Special Agent Charles Amell."
The article goes on to state that that the official address for "Pagosa Resort and Spa" is the same address as World Jet — a company owned by Don Whittington. The address is reportedly an airplane hanger in Fort Lauderdale.
"Nerissa Whittington is an officer of 19 different companies registered in Florida. Keely is an officer in 15 companies, mostly the same ones as Nerissa. All of the companies... use World Jet’s address at the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport," wrote Mr. Hanel.
Keely Whittington has worked as a Project Manager for the town of Pagosa Springs since 2012. The Town of Pagosa Springs has had a close working relationship with the Springs Resort, as evidenced by exclusive access to the Town's geothermal water resources since the late 1990s. A $250 million expansion of the Springs Resort was proposed several years ago, but has been tabled.
The DEA in Florida has been investigating World Jet for more than a year, reported Hanel. The DEA affidavit details a scheme in which the company would sell airplanes at inflated prices to drug traffickers but maintain the title, either in the name of World Jet or a third party. The warrant lists several aircraft sales by World Jet to known or suspected drug traffickers.
The 35-page Affidavit reads like a money laundering primer — fortunately a subject I'm not at all familiar with. Some additional local references in the affidavit include:
Stevens Field. Various flights into and out of Stevens Field by Don and Bill Whittington were under surveillance.
Three Meadows Ranch. An Archuleta County Assessor's records search identifies Three Meadows Ranch as a 680-acre ranch, located at 2090A CR 113. Records show that the ranch since 2007 has been owned and quit claimed from Nerissa Whittington and Keely Reyes (nee Whittington) to Keely Reyes to Nerissa Whittington and finally to Fawn Gulch LLC in June 2011.
Fawn Gulch LLC is registered in Fort Lauderdale, at the address of Don Whittington's conpany, World Jet.
The ranch has a mailing address in Albuquerque NM, where RD Whittington (formerly an employee of the Springs Resort) now resides and owns a used car dealership called Whittington Motorsports that also is under investigation for suspicious financial transactions.
In April 2012, Bill Whittington attempted to open two brokerage accounts at Raymond James Financial Services in Pagosa with a personal check for $1 million. Raymond James is locally known as Scott Strategic Investments and owned by financial advisor Bob Scott. After a background check was conducted on William Whittington, the million dollar check was returned and the accounts closed, according to the affidavit.
I don't personally know Bill Whittington. I last saw him a couple of years ago as I was walking my dog Cody across the Springs Resort lawn on my way to the River Walk. He was cleaning up after his dog, a golden retriever. We exchanged pleasantries.
The Daily Post referenced the Whittington's golden retriever, Homer, in a press release about the June 2011 first annual Golden Retriever Round-up: "There will be restaurant tours for the Goldens, numerous vendor merchandise, and a special classification entitled 'Homer’s Heroics VIP Team' named in honor of Colorado’s most famous Golden... who resides at The Springs Resort."
I also recall that Homer was the Grand Marshall of the Golden Parade that summer.
When it comes to being famous — or infamous — apparently Homer will be taking a back seat to his owners.